Does the HoS know the Electoral Act?

August 5th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The editorial says:

What is plain is that the law, which Prime Minister John Key said “anyone can drive a bus through”, is hopelessly inadequate. Local Government Minister David Carter confirmed this week that the Local Electoral Act will be amended before next year’s local body elections – but it seems the intention is only to bring it into line with the rules of the Electoral Act (which covers MPs). The local version sets no limit on the number or size of anonymous donations. Nor does it stop the use of trusts to ensure donors’ anonymity.

But it is time to go further and stop anonymous donations altogether. Nobody expects disclosure of the source of each coin thrown into a plastic bucket at a meeting. But it is fundamentally inimical to the idea of democracy that people can donate large amounts of money to political campaigns without voters’ knowing about it. Generous donors don’t give money to politicians without expecting something in return, and we should know who is giving what, not for the hell of it, but so that politicians’ behaviour can be assessed in the light of the largesse.

I can only assume the editorial writer doesn’t know the Electoral Act well. It does effectively ban large anonymous donations. No party or candidate can accept an anonymous donation of over $1,500.

There is an avenue where a donor can donate anonymously through the Electoral Commission, so long as they sign statements swearing the┬árecipient┬áparty does not know of the donation. It wasn’t used a lot, and I actually support it being removed.

One can debate about whether the limit for anonymous donations should be $1,500 and what the disclosure limit should be ($1,500 for candidates, $15,000 for parties) and should these limits applies to local body campaigns.

Ideally the disclosure limit would be variable based on the size of the campaign. A $2,000 donation to an Auckland mayoral candidate is probably 0.2% of their total campaign spending, while the same donation to a small district council might be 10% of their total spending.

Tags: ,

9 Responses to “Does the HoS know the Electoral Act?”

  1. Deborah (156 comments) says:

    I’m not sure whether donations are still sheltered through trusts. It’s a nasty mechanism, designed to allow people to make donations and not be identified. I’d like to see all donations above a specified level traced through intervening trusts and companies to either natural persons, or public listed companies. I think the level should be quite low – say $500 per year.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,871 comments) says:

    Oh well. Just change that letters page to “Letters to the Numbskull.”

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. MT_Tinman (3,092 comments) says:

    There should be no limit on donation amounts but ALL donations above $49. should be registered by identified donors, those donors being from individuals only.

    eg, MT_Tinman may donate but Tinman Taxi can not.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Graeme Edgeler (3,279 comments) says:

    I think the obvious point is that the Herald on Sunday are using a different meaning of the word anonymous than you are. You are using anonymous to mean the donor’s identity is hidden from the candidate, they are using anonymous to mean hidden from the public. Viewing the editorial with that in mind it makes perfect sense. You need to recall that the story behind this editorial is the John Banks case, where Banks knew the identities of donors but kept them hidden from the public.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Paulus (2,589 comments) says:

    Surely any candidate can collect all his/her donations by creating a Trust as Len Brown did for his $499,000.
    Then the candidate can say genuinly I did not know.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Alan Wilkinson (1,865 comments) says:

    I’m tired of making involuntary anonymous donations to election campaigns as a taxpayer and ratepayer. Especially to candidates I loathe.

    If you want to improve local government accountability, revise the voting rights: for every $2000 of rates you pay, you get one vote.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. Graeme Edgeler (3,279 comments) says:

    Surely any candidate can collect all his/her donations by creating a Trust as Len Brown did for his $499,000.
    Then the candidate can say genuinly I did not know.

    Not at a national level, the person running any trust is required to tell the party/candidate who gave them the money.

    And at a local level it doesn’t mean the candidate genuinely doesn’t know. They can be told who it was, and how much it was, they just don’t have to declare it.

    There is a bit in The Hollow Men where National is holding a fundraiser, and Don Brash tells someone something to the effect of: we should give X and Y free tickets because of the large donation they’ve already made (via the Waitemata Trust). The candidate can know, but all the public knows is the total from the trust.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. Graeme Edgeler (3,279 comments) says:

    Ideally the disclosure limit would be variable based on the size of the campaign. A $2,000 donation to an Auckland mayoral candidate is probably 0.2% of their total campaign spending, while the same donation to a small district council might be 10% of their total spending.

    I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad idea, but I fail to see why it’s the “Ideal”. Why should we be limited to knowing the 20 largest donors to a party or candidate?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. backster (2,136 comments) says:

    Far more important to limit Local Body ability to raise rates and to borrow billions than waste energy worrying about who manages to raise the most money for advertising.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.